Four Reasons to Celebrate Social Workers

bannerIt’s Social Work Month, a month in which we celebrate the amazing tenacity and talent of our nation’s more than 600,000 social workers. For many young women affected by breast cancer, the question of using a Social Worker may come up.

Sure, you may be just great at handling the whopping amount of details that accompany your cancer journey, but why do so when help may be right at your fingertips?

 

 

Here are FOUR reasons to consider working with a Social Worker:

1. A Social Worker can be your advocate on your healthcare team, particularly when it comes to communication.

2. A Social Worker can help you access financial resources that are available to you while you’re in treatment and possibly up to one year retroactively (e.g. co-pays for prescriptions). Even if you find yourself unable to pay for prescriptions, a Social Worker can help you seek drug assistance through pharmaceutical companies.

3. Social workers are often licensed clinical therapists. Mental health services are often offered for free. Take advantage of that!

4. A Social Worker, by training, is a natural born problem solver. Whatever you’re facing in terms of difficulty during your cancer journey, use this valuable resource to help you find your way.

Jean Rowe, LCSW, OSW-C, CJT speaking at the 2016 YSC Summit

YSC has a number of useful resources offering more information on Social Workers and the work they do with young women affected by breast cancer:
Communicating with Healthcare Providers
Breast Cancer in Young Women: Insurance
Breast Cancer in Young Women: Specialists

Social Workers are there for you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“She beat cancer by living life on her terms” Ishiuan Ku Hargrove: 1973 – 2016

Ishi and Pablo

Ishiuan Hargrove and Pablo Colon

My heart is breaking as I write this, my dear friend and co-captain of Team I RIDE 4 HER, Ishiuan Hargrove, passed away peacefully on March 19, 2016 at her “Utopia” aka her home. The impact she had on those around her was legendary.

Ishiuan was a force of nature, and I can’t really put into words how much she will be missed.

Some will say “She lost her battle with breast cancer.” I won’t. If you knew Ishiuan, you know she didn’t lose anything. She won.

Ishi 1

Ishiuan and her husband Adam

She won with every extra day/week/month/year she got to spend with Adam and her two young boys.

She won every time she got on that bike that she loved so much and rode 200 miles in YSC Tour de Pink East Coast, and then went back to Florida and chemo.

She won when she went to New York City for brain surgery and instead of taking a cab, she rode a Citibike to the hospital.

She didn’t lose a battle. She went to war and she beat the hell out of cancer with the spirit of a warrior who would never quit. She beat cancer by living her life to the fullest every day, inspiring those around her and advocating nationally for other young metastatic women. She beat cancer by not letting it dictate what she could or couldn’t do or achieve. She beat cancer by living life on her terms.

 

 

I got to spend a few hours with her a few days before she died, and it was a blessing and a gift to be able to share that time with her. We talked about the beginning of our little team of riders, what it had become and how it would continue to grow. She asked me to ride in her place in the upcoming TdP South ride and generally gave me a homework list of things she wanted me to do. If you knew her, this isn’t surprising. She was also still ever the advocate.

“This is the reality of breast cancer, Pablo. I’m doing this for your wife, Erin, and your daughter, Dalia,” she said, after we posted a picture to Facebook. When I told her she’d always be with us, she smiled and said, “I’ll be riding in the clouds on top of you guys.”

I’ve never met anyone more focused or determined to live life on her terms and be an advocate for others and an agent for change.

ishi 2I miss you “Itchy One.”
You made me a better person.
You didn’t lose anything.
You won.

In lieu of flowers, her family has asked for donations to go to Young Survival Coalition using Ishiuan’s YSC Tour de Pink South page: south.ysctourdepink.org/hargrove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facing Metastatic Breast Cancer Together

Christopher and Jennifer attended the YSC Summit in Atlanta. As a co-survivor, Christopher had many doubts about whether he would fit in. Jennifer, on the other hand, had been looking forward to the Summit for months. She originally planned to go with friends who also have metastatic breast cancer. But she realized Chris needed his own support network, so she convinced him to join her.

IMG_0699

Christopher:
“All my concerns were quick to evaporate. From the start I felt nothing but welcomed. The other husbands and boyfriends were patient with my ability to open up and speak about my experience. They were all understanding and inspirational.

The content for research studies, trials and new treatments was relevant and very focused on metastasis. The highlight of the weekend was meeting a couple with circumstances very similar to ours, so we spent a lot of time with them. To any co-survivors thinking about attending, please do not hesitate to come and support your lady, and enjoy the support of your peers.”

Jennifer:
IMG_0679“I was diagnosed a year ago with metastatic breast cancer, and we have been navigating this new life together since. I realized a few months ago that Chris was having issues with his role in this cancer world. He agreed that connecting with others in our situation was something we both needed.

We originally were going to do separate breakout sessions, but ended up doing most of them together. We were both very interested in learning everything we could about medical trials and immunology. The speakers were phenomenal.

It was nice to just spend the weekend together, and I honestly felt that Chris got as much out of it as I did. It was definitely nice having two sets of ears taking in the information. By the time we got to the dance party, we both intended to have fun, and we did. We were so grateful for this weekend, and to be included in a great group of people. Can’t wait for 2017.”

***

All YSC Conferences, including the YSC Summit and YSC Regional Symposiums, offer co-survivors the opportunity to learn and connect with a large supportive community so they can, in-turn, be more effective and empowering support systems for the young women they love.

Additionally, YSC Conferences offer a number of sessions focused on metastatic breast cancer. Our next conference, the YSC Midwest Symposium, is in Minneapolis, MN on June 4. Our robust Mets Resource Center, provides resources and ways to connect with other young women facing metastatic breast cancer.

 

 

 

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10 Reasons the YSC Summit Rocked!

We asked the YSC State Leaders who attended the YSC National Summit last weekend what their most important take-away was. Did they learn a new valuable lesson? Did a particular session or speaker resonate with them? Or did they connect with someone new?
Here’s what they had to say…

“Metastatic friendships transcend time apart and distance in between, for one weekend, we are one.”
– Anise, diagnosed stage 3 at 32, metastatic to the lungs at 36, metastatic to the brain at 37

 

 

 

“What was most valuable for me were the new resources and connections I made in order to help others who are newly diagnosed. I enjoyed sharing my Face 2 Face networking meeting ideas with other State Leaders as well! It was very empowering to be able to help them too! Although I’m home with elevated CKP levels due to cross fit and trying to recover, I still loved it even though my body hated it! Overall, an amazing experience. You have to be there to understand the full benefits of the Summit!”
– Beth, diagnosed at 34

 

 

Jenn“In the fertility and pregnancy workshop, another State Leader and I had the opportunity to share our stories of pregnancy after breast cancer treatment and I also had the opportunity to share my story of breastfeeding after breast cancer. I connected with a number of survivors after the workshop to answer their questions and share information. This is just one of the many ways that survivors learn from each other at the Summit.”
– Jenn, diagnosed at 27

 

 

Michelle Pina“As a 10 year survivor, I sometimes wonder if there is a need for me to attend the Summit… that answer is a resounding YES. The Summit reminds me how far we still have to go in letting people know YSC exists. It reminds me of how unique young survivors are in the cancer world and it reminds me of how strong I really am.”
– Michelle, diagnosed at 33 with Stage 2B Triple Negative

 

 

 

Wendy Muldrew“The most important thing that stood out to me during the Summit was how to become an advocate for breast cancer, which is what I strive to be.”
– Wendy, diagnosed at age 36

 

 

 

 

Rachel“As a 9 year breast cancer survivor, going to the Summit reminded me of why we do what we do. Not everyone has a storybook ending to their cancer journey. Many will walk down dark pathways but with support, I want to be a light to guide them along their way.”
– Rachel, diagnosed stage 3 at 35

 

 

 

Bobbie“I thought the most valuable moment for me at the Summit was the General Session: Sex and Intimacy. I realized that I wasn’t the only one dealing with problems! It was nice to be around others who understood!”
– Bobbie, Ky Pink Ribbon Warrior, diagnosed at 31

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon“Prior to departure I was struggling personally with my own emotions and some family issues. It seemed the devil was trying to cancel my plans. And I know why, now. Because this weekend saved my life. I met and befriended beautiful women of all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, all curvy or flat chested and all so gorgeous! The bravery of these women; the acceptance; the power; the love…indescribable. Have you ever been in a room with 650+ people who you have something in common with every single one of them? It’s comradery to the core. It’s a sisterhood. And I realized, truly, none of us wanted to be in this group. None of us chose this path. But none of us gave up. Some of us almost did, me included. Instead, we drudged on…sometimes barely able to stand, sometimes being carried by those that love us, but we continue. While we continue to fight for cancer research in the hopes of curing this monster, we stand united. And I learned, meanwhile, that I should live and be mindful and present. Thank you ladies for reminding me that our attitude is of our own choosing and hope isn’t lost.”
– Shannon, diagnosed at 34

Jenn Smith“What most resonated with me was when Pat Steeg, PhD, spoke about the state of young women and breast cancer. She explained that it’s up to US, the women in this room to raise their voices and demand the funding for research on young women, especially for young metastatic women. This funding issue won’t be solved by the doctors or the researchers. We have the power! What Dr. Steeg shared about the current research concerning young women and breast cancer was NOT great news… But her message to us – to unite and use our power – really fired me up. I went to the Breast Cancer Advocacy session the next day with her words still ringing in my ears.”
– Jenn, diagnosed at 37

 

Anne“I’m so excited about all the knowledge and advice I was able to take away from the Summit. I can’t wait to put it to good use helping other young women when I start up my new F2F group!”
– Anne, diagnosed at 28

 

 

 

 

 

Did you attend the Summit and have something you wanted to share? Let us know in the comments below! We’ll also have the full presentations from the Summit available in the next month, so stay tuned.

If you missed the Summit, don’t worry – the YSC Midwest Symposium is in a few months and we’d love to see you there. This one day conference in Minneapolis, MN on June 4 is sure to be an amazing, engaging day for anyone affected by breast cancer.
Learn more and get your ticket here.

We also welcome you to apply to become a YSC State Leader, like these incredible young women. We’re reviewing applications until the end of May. Become a State Leader today!

 

 

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Young Survivors & Their Favorite Recipes

For Nutrition Awareness Month, we’ve asked a few of the amazing young women we support for inspiration on healthy, delicious recipes making it easy to eat right!

gwlRoasted Chickpeas
Submitted by Jamie, diagnosed at 33
“This recipe is super easy and a great alternative to chips because of the crunch! They also make a fabulous additions to salads.”

Ingredients
1 (12 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
garlic salt
cayenne pepper

 

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Blot chickpeas with a paper towel to dry them. In a bowl, toss chickpeas with olive oil and season to taste with salt, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Watch carefully during the last few minutes to avoid burning.

 

 

 

LindseyChicken Dill Lemon Rice Soup
Submitted by Lindsey, diagnosed at 35
“I love this recipe because it’s simple and delicious. It’s super health and can be easily adapted to meet dietary preferences. It’s 2 points on the weight watchers plan!”

Ingredients
1 pound chicken breast
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup wild and Basmati rice
1 -2 lemon (depends on preference)
3 tablespoon dry dill or 1/3 cup fresh dill
1 small onion
3 celery stalks
3 handfuls of baby spinach
1 squash
1 zucchini
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon pepper (or to taste)

Chicken Dill Lemon Rice SoupDirections
Cook carrots, celery, onion, chicken broth and seasonings in crockpot for 4 hours on high.
Add spinach and rice (cook first) after four hours. Squeeze one (or two) lemon in the pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DadandI

Amy with her dad and family.

Fresh Cucumber Salad with an Asian flair
Submitted by Amy, diagnosed at 37
“This is a family recipe that comes from my dad, who worked his way through college by cooking at a Chinese restaurant. He has been a professor for the past 40 years. My dad taught me this recipe a year ago because it is simple, healthy and delicious.”

Ingredients
3 fresh, firm Kirby cucumbers
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon of good quality Japanese Sesame Oil
Dash of Black pepper to taste
Dash of sugar to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

smashing-cucumber-salad-012Directions
Wash and pat dry the Kirby cucumbers. Cut off two ends, slice the cucumbers at a 45 degree angle in 0.2 cm thick 1 inch wide by 1.5 inch long slices. Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and sugar together, then spread over the cucumbers so they’re well coated in the mixture. Refrigerate for 30-40 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

MikalaPaleo Granola
Submitted by Mikala, diagnosed at 25
“I love to eat! This recipe is my favorite sweet and healthy treat that I never leave home without!”

Ingredients
1 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 cup raw sunflower seeds (not in shells)
1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups chopped pecans
20 dates, chopped finely
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons vanilla
dash of salt (optional)
(Mikala’s tip: Add berries and almond milk for a delicious healthy breakfast cereal!)

Paleo-Granola-RecipeDirections
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Melt the coconut oil and pour it in a small bowl. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and salt (if none of the nuts are salted, I recommend a dash of salt). Stir well.
Pour the oil mixture over the dry mixture and stir to combine and evenly coat.
Spread the granola on a baking sheet* and bake for 20 minutes. Stir, then bake an additional 5 minutes.
Allow the granola to cool completely, then store it in an airtight container.

 

 

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe? Share it with us by submitting it in the comments below. We’ll select a few to share on Facebook!

 

 

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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors

When Illness becomes Wellness

Every breast cancer survivor likely remembers the exact place and moment they got the news. In a time filled with unknown terms, treatments, surgeries and side effects, I can understand why the focus is on the illness. But when does the discussion include healing and recovery? Why don’t doctors encourage anxious patients to take a walk, do a few squats, stretch and eat extra greens?

When a patient asks what they can do to help get ready for surgery, it’s all about the process, drains, healing times and what NOT to do. When do we talk instead about the DO’s? Why is it that we don’t prescribe exercise, nutrition and mind-body therapies that make women stronger and healthier?

When does the focus on illness shift to wellness?

Wellness is a proactive, lifelong process of becoming aware of and making choices to become physically and emotionally healthy. More than being free from illness, wellness is a dynamic process of growth toward living your best daily life. There are seven wellness categories, each an equal part of the wheel. When one piece of the wheel is “low,” similar to the tires on your car, your life may feel like a bumpy ride.

wellness_wheel

While there are countless ways to engage in each wellness category, check out these ideas…

1. Intellectual – Read a non-fiction book or watch a documentary on Netflix. Check out YouTube videos or take a class on knitting, cooking, painting or dance.
2. Physical – Exercise regularly and eat lots of protein. Strength training is the most important type of exercise to maintain your metabolism and deal with menopausal changes and/or medication side effects such as joint pain. Try wearing a weighted backpack while you do household chores.
3. Environmental – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Do your part to take care of our planet. Control your personal environment and eliminate people and activities that are negative.
4. Emotional – Create a list of resources that put you in a good mental place. When your self-talk needs support, listen to a positive song or motivational video on YouTube. Better yet, put on headphones and go for a walk.
5. Occupational – Work in a job that you love, if you can. If you can’t, volunteer for a charity that speaks to your heart. Be fiscally responsible with your time and money.
6. Social – Establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Use social media in a positive and empowering way. Smile at someone new.
7. Spiritual – Explore your spiritual core by asking yourself questions. Who am I? What is my purpose? Practice meditation, deep breathing and relaxation, especially in situations that cause stress or anxiety.

What ways can you bring wellness into your life?

***
About Sami Mansfield
Sami (Papacek) Mansfield has been an oncology exercise specialist since 2003. She has helped thousands of cancer survivors as a supporter, friend, connector, healthcare expert and – most important – wellness and exercise consultant. She is the wellness and oncology expert for the University of Kansas Cancer Center, and she devotes much of her time to coaching survivors. Sami has been a part of YSC for over 10 years, having served as the Kansas City chair for more than four years. She is a two-time Tour de Pink rider and four-time national conference speaker. In her personal time, she’s a wife, mom and crossfitter.
Read more about Sami at www.cancerwellnessforlife.com

 

 

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How To Eat & Drink Your Way Through Cycling

With March being Nutritional Awareness Month, I was invited to share some perspective on good nutrition as you train for your next big event.

BACKWARDS BUILDUP
I approach a big cycling event (or any physical event) backwards. Yep, backwards. That applies to both training and nutrition. Assuming you have decent nutritional habits already, working backwards focuses on the week prior to your event to build up protein and carb reserves.

Count backwards seven days from your event.  For the next three days, you want to ingest more protein than usual, while reducing your carbs a bit. Finally, for the final four days, you do the opposite; eat less protein and LOTS of carbs. But don’t be like so many cyclists who crowd restaurants the night before an event and stuff their faces with pasta; it’s a bit too late to obtain the benefit of those carbs. By the way, I’m talking about complex carbs.  Do a Google search for great complex carb examples.


HYDRATION

Sadly, the vast majority of Americans live with some level of dehydration. It’s safe to say we should be drinking approximately eight ounces of water eight times a day. Add that up and you get close to half a gallon.  (And if you live in the south, sweet tea doesn’t count.  I’m talking about regular old water.)

As I tell my clients, you CAN eat an elephant, just not in one bite. The same is true of drinking half a gallon of water. Start by drinking four ounces of water every other hour during your waking hours. Do this for a week and then bump that up to every waking hour for two weeks. Finally, turn that four ounces into eight ounces and you’re good to go.

Yes, it’s going to be a lot of trips to the bathroom. Hey, that’s actually a good thing. The more you keep your body “flushed,” the healthier you can be.
HYDRATION – ON THE BIKEWaterBottle
I am amazed at how many cyclists hardly drink while riding.  My rule of thumb is take a drink every 10 minutes, whether you feel like it or not.  This will keep you from becoming dehydrated.

You rarely see it when watching events like the Tour de France, but those guys do take “nature breaks.” Bottom line, if you don’t need a bathroom during longer bike rides, then you probably haven’t drunk enough.

 

MycyclingcoachAbout Robert Wilhite:
“Coach” Robert Wilhite is a professional cycling coach who started MyCycleCoach.com 13 years ago. His clients range from beginners to pro-level cyclists. His unique perspective comes from racing motorcycles at speeds in excess of 180 mph, where the balance, handling and control skills are exactly the same as a bicycle.  Coach Robert has a natural gift when it comes to teaching and communicating everything you need to know about riding a bicycle.

Interested in putting these great tips to the test? Then join one of YSC’s Tour de Pink rides this year!
Tour de Pink South: April 15-17, 2016
Tour de Pink East: September 16-18, 2016
Tour de Pink West: October 14-16, 2016

 

 

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Leaping to Help

Today is leap day, the extra day inserted into the calendar every four years. What will you do with your extra day? Some of YSC’s volunteers are taking a leap to help ensure the YSC Summit is a huge success.

In a little over a week, more than 600 attendees will gather in Atlanta, Georgia for the YSC Summit. As the national conference for young women affected by breast cancer and their co-survivors, the Summit is an amazing weekend that takes a huge amount of support from volunteers. They generously give their time to help prepare name badges, stuff tote bags, set up, assist with registration, greet attendees, moderate breakout sessions and more. They play an integral role in making sure every event runs smoothly!

StoriStori, diagnosed at 39 and a State Leader from California, leapt at the chance to volunteer at the Summit.

“I am volunteering because I feel it’s important to be one of the faces of the organization. I’m a State Leader and volunteer throughout the year for YSC, and think it is especially important to help make this event successful. I just want to assist someone who needs my help and make sure everyone who attends has a really great experience with YSC,” Stori says.

 
Natalie 3After being diagnosed at 36, Natalie started the first YSC Face 2 Face network in Tennessee and recently moved to Atlanta. She has been committed to giving back to YSC ever since she received support after her own diagnosis. Because this year’s Summit is in her backyard, it was a great opportunity for her to be involved.

“After all the support Young Survival Coalition has given me, I wanted to give back. Being able to share time and experiences with other young women affected by breast cancer gave me a strength and understanding that I couldn’t have received from anyone else. I am so excited to be a part of this conference and happy I can help make it great,” Natalie says.

 

Are you ready to leap into volunteering for YSC?  Sign up to volunteer at the YSC Summit here.

You can also get involved the rest of the year by registering to be a YSC volunteer.
Text YSC2016 to 77948 to receive text messages about volunteer opportunities in your area.

 

 

 

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How I Regained My Smile Following Breast Cancer

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 is rough. You are quickly thrown into a world of decision-making and self-advocacy; where the balance between quality and quantity of life looms over you while physicians and family each provide their opinions. But then you make it through. You become a survivor and everything in the world is great….except when it isn’t.

The same treatments that saved my life had long-term side effects that had stealthily remained out of the conversation when I weighed my treatment options. To be fair, if someone had told me at the time, “You are going to take this medication for five years, which will prevent the cancer from coming back, but it will also prevent you from having sex in the future,” I probably would have still taken the medication. But after the physical and mental healing of cancer, you want to get back to “normal,” and I quickly realized that the pain doesn’t stop after remission.

Vaginal Atrophy is a common condition for women who have been on adjuvant therapy, but only recently has it been discussed openly. When I first went to my doctor and told her about my symptoms, (i.e. dryness, painful intercourse, etc.), I was told to try lubricant from the drugstore. It goes without saying that if the symptoms were bad enough to discuss with my doctor, we were way beyond drugstore solutions. Unfortunately, there were no other options for me. The few products on the market to treat vaginal atrophy all contained estrogen and centered around hormone replacement for post-menopausal women. As an estrogen positive breast cancer patient, the last thing I wanted to do was put more estrogen in my body.

Enter self-advocacy and a lot of stubbornness. I refused to accept that I had to live like this. I routinely spoke with my gynecologist about the problem until one day she presented a new solution – the MonaLisa Touch. A Clinical Trial was being conducted for this new CO2 laser that would restore the vaginal health to what it was before my cancer diagnosis, and I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the program.

With cautious optimism I went in for my first of three treatments, hoping for a miracle, but expecting very little. Three days after my first treatment, I began to feel the results, but ever the skeptic at heart, I told myself it was probably the placebo effect. A week later I could no longer deny it. There was definitely a change. I was still too nervous to attempt intercourse, but the painful dryness was dissipating. After my second treatment I did a little happy dance. I actually felt amazing. The dryness was gone – not just “better,” I mean, it was GONE. I had sex for the first time in a long time and felt like I was 21 again. My third treatment just sealed the deal.

I am happy to report that more than one year from my treatments with MonaLisa Touch, I am enjoying a quality of life that I thought I would never regain. If I can impart one piece of advice onto other women going through the same thing – don’t live with the pain. Like me, you too can regain your smile again.

Mona Lisa Touch Before & After

(A) Vaginal Atrophy, mucosa in the basal condition with a thinner epithelium. (B) The same patient 2 months after a session with the MonaLisa Touch®. The thicker epithelium and shedding of numerous big cells from the free surface, together with the larger diameter of epithelial cells rich in glycogen, demonstrate the restored metabolic trophism and dynamics of the whole epithelium.

***
At 29, Lisa Elliot was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her subsequent treatments lead to menopausal symptoms including extreme dryness, irritation, itching and painful sex.  As a young lady in her early 30s, she wasn’t able to sit at her desk without being in severe pain, much less have sex with her boyfriend who didn’t really comprehend why or how this could be happening to someone so young.  Then, Lisa’s gynecologist introduced her to a new, non-estrogen therapy. Within two days of her first [of three] treatment, Lisa reported that she had a dramatic improvement in her symptoms. Upon returning for her second treatment, she rejoiced that she had been partaking in sex again with no pain. One year following her series of three treatments, Lisa’s symptoms have not returned.

MonaLisa Touch is a proud partner of Young Survival Coalition.

 

 

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Just do your thing.

I like beer.  This is not the point of my post, but I thought you might like to know. I also like the band RUSH, but that also is not the point. The point is this: I’m a Co‑Survivor. I’m also a very lucky man.

craig pic 1OK, my wife Jenn (smokin’ hot, BTW) was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer (ER+/PR+/Her2-) in 2013. Up until then, everything was awesome: a great marriage of over 10 years, two amazing girls, a house, a dog, you get the idea. Thankfully, we still have all of that, minus one of Jenn’s breasts and some lymph nodes.

Jenn’s diagnosis consumed every waking minute. As the Co-Survivor (a title I never knew existed), it took all of my attention to keep things moving. The marriage, kids, house, dog … and now awwwwhhh crap, The Cancer.

The last thing on my mind was intimacy. Following Jenn’s diagnosis and the ensuing surgeries and treatments, it was the absence of intimacy that stood out.

Here was the woman I loved and desired, and honestly, she was a wreck. Hell, I was a wreck.  Having my wife burying her head in my chest and sobbing herself to sleep, and sharing her emotions, wasn’t much for foreplay.

But, over time, intimacy did, can I say it? Arise. It was tentative at first, but it was there.  Simply put, you love and desire your partner and intimacy is part of that. What kind of intimacy, you ask?  I think you know. But let’s not go full perv. My kids might read this and think I’m even weirder.

There is a type of intimacy more important than the biblical thing. A knowing look.  A hand held. A smile. A hug. Time together. I know, blah, blah, blah. You already know all of this. But, before you click away to read about Kanye being broke or the Zika virus, let me ask you: What’s your thing?

I’ll tell you what our thing is (beyond the smiles and hugs and stuff).

Cooking.

craig pic 6Throughout Jenn’s diagnosis, surgeries, treatments and all the other fun cancer stuff, we found intimacy in cooking. We would plan a meal. I mean seriously plan a meal, like all week long. We’d talk about it, source the ingredients, go shopping. We’d plan the food, drink, and even the movie we’d watch (we’re not much for candles and fine china; more like TV trays and couches.) Then, we’d cook together. The moments spent talking, collaborating, laughing, and sometimes just chewing were important. Those moments were intimate. We had always done this, even before cancer. But, after cancer, this thing was much more special, more important, more intimate.

So, I ask again, what’s your thing?

In getting to that answer, ask yourself: Why are you together? What draws you to one another? How do you show your love? What do you like to do together?

Whatever it is, just do your thing. If you make something up or try to go extravagant, it’s not going to feel real. Oh, and don’t hide from the intimacy. Cancer changes a lot of things, but not everything. Certain things are fundamental to us as human beings. What existed before cancer is still there.

This cancer stuff will never be over and no one knows what’s coming next. So, we’ll just keep doing our thing. Same as before.

Here’s some pictures of Jenn and me (and those amazing kids I mentioned). Take a quick look at her hotness.

Craig And Family

 

***

Craig’s wife, Jenn McRobbie, will be speaking at the upcoming YSC Summit in Atlanta, GA on March 11 – 13. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenn understands that a breast cancer diagnosis is not only hard on you, but it is also difficult for friends and family. Join her session, Friends and Family: Building Stronger Relationships After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, to learn how to navigate these important relationships after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Register today: summit.youngsurvival.org/Registration

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Guest Bloggers